How do you get away with condemning anyone for supporting a war you yourself voted to authorize?
In one of the sharpest cuts taken at Hillary Clinton in last night's Democratic debate at Dartmouth College, John Edwards criticized the senator from New York for stating recently that she planned to keep some combat forces in Iraq for years to come. "I heard Senator Clinton say on Sunday that she wants to continue combat missions in Iraq," Edwards said, referring to Clinton's remarks on the political talk shows. "To me, that's a continuation of the war. I do not think we should continue combat missions in Iraq. When I'm on a stage with the Republican nominee come fall 2008 I'm going to make clear I'm for ending the war."
Edwards' hope was to paint Clinton as a hawk who would not deliver the clean break from President Bush's Iraq policy that most Democratic voters long for. But is Edwards' thinking on Iraq really all that much different? Even as he attacks Clinton for her plan to "continue combat missions," he has made clear in recent months that after pulling troops out of Iraq, he would leave some behind in the region -- most likely Kuwait -- for the express purpose of conducting targeted combat missions inside Iraq, whether to attack Al Qaeda strongholds, quell a genocide or protect the U.S. Embassy. In a Sept. 7 speech in lower Manhattan in which he laid out his counter-terrorism platform, Edwards said, "Even though the presence of U.S. troops has served as an attractive target for terrorists, our eventual withdrawal will not remove the threat. As president, I will redeploy forces, troops, into quick reaction forces outside of Iraq to perform targeted missions against Al Qaeda cells and to prevent genocide or a regional spillover of civil war."